Design & Product - Media

Experiments with AI: Khyati Trehan

While developing a music video using AI tools, the New York-based designer finds that new levels of critical judgement and curatorial skills are now necessary for creators working with AI.

Girl sitting on printed sofa surrounded by cakes and flowers
The final backdrop that emerged from Trehan's ping-pong process
The final video created with a combination of AI and traditional tools.

Khyati Trehan, a New York-based graphic designer and 3D visual artist, had settled on a vintage kitchen as the backdrop for her sister Kavya’s music video. The song, titled Affection, is a dreamy, romantic number and Trehan was looking to balance a nostalgic warmth with surrealism. “I was thinking of a cozy setting complete with chintz, cakes and flowers,” she says. 

She began by crafting specific prompts for Photoshop’s generative AI tool. These included “vintage kitchen,” “warm lighting,” “filled with cakes,” and “romantic ambiance.” 

The AI instantly generated multiple background options. Each variation captured a different aspect of Trehan’s vision, with subtle changes in color palettes, lighting, furniture and decor. 

“It was overwhelming,” says the designer. “How do you decide where to stop, when the possibilities are infinite and so easily within reach?”

Girl sitting on printed sofa
Girl sitting on printed sofa with yellow lilies in white vases. Prompt shows how image was generated
The fact that options are so easy to generate creates a new kind of complexity in decision-making

The Ping-Pong Process

Through her many experiments, Trehan has discovered a ping-pong process that works best for her. 

“From lots of dabbling, I’ve come to realise that creative AI tools don’t make me feel creative. The text-to-image model takes the joy out of making for me. It takes spending time on a piece, marinating on ideas, sleeping over it, making mistakes, solving them, and tons of iteration to take it to a place where it reflects me just as much as it surprises me. 

My workaround to settle this feeling has been to deliberately make a ‘back and forth’ between traditional tools and AI tools a part of the process, which makes for interesting workflow possibilities. This ping ponging makes a tool out of a ‘generate’ button. It’s also just really fun to play a game of exquisite corpse with GenAI instead of treating it as a means to an end.’ 

Khyati Trehan

With the music video, for instance, Trehan used masking techniques to overlay elements of the live-action footage she had shot earlier. (All the original footage was shot either on an empty roof or in front of a blank wall.)

Girl sitting in front of grey wall
The original footage of performer, Kavya Trehan, was shot against this blank wall. Kavya stayed very still and only moved her eyes and lips.

Trehan then used Runway’s motion brush tool to add touches like making the flowers in a vase bloom.

Masked screen with small images of dflowers and girls face masked in photoshop
From Photoshop, Trehan switched to Runway to add tiny nuanced animations to the film. The sunlight on Kavya’s arm was a ‘happy surprise.’
Girl sitting on printed sofa surrounded by cakes and flowers
The final backdrop that emerged from Trehan’s ping-pong process

For the title design, Trehan tried an animation, but then stuck to a classic type-based title overlaid on the film.

In the Hands of Creatives

Trehan’s experiment offers a glimpse into what is possible with very limited resources – a world where Generative AI technology enables artistic expression that would otherwise take substantial production effort. However, this is far from a world that does not need a creative community. Trehan points out that while access to AI tools may well add to the sea of mediocre content, you still need vision, storytelling and craft to create something that can emotionally engage an audience.

In fact, creators must now play an added role as tastemakers, guiding these tools with a firm vision to extract meaningful results. No surprise then that Runway hosts a film-festival called AIFF every year, where the work of artists embracing new and emerging AI tech is showcased. The company also runs a Creative Partners Program which gives filmmakers and artists early access to tool features and creative resources.

Other platforms are following a similar strategy. When OpenAI launched Sora, their generative video platform, they asked filmmakers to take it for a test drive. The result was fun – and fairly polished – films like Airhead, made by Toronto-based pop band and filmmaking collective, Shy Kids.

“It is only when a tool is put into the hands of talented creatives,” says Trehan, “that its full potential is realised. That’s why for my next AI movie-making experiment, I hope to collaborate with an experienced film-maker.”

4 Comments

  1. I want to be optimistic but I dont see how – endless options, zero cost, more clueless peeps churning out more horrible crap. This is going to be very painful

  2. Really loved this story. When Photoshop came, it disrupted the design industry that had done things manually but knowing PS doesnt make you a designer. We will have to master these AI tools but just that alone will not make us designers.

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